Laws of Relativity

Laws of Relativity

Jon is a neighbor in our compound from California. He recently returned from a visit home. We visited with him and talked of the dramatic differences between life at home and life here. He told a funny story about working at a Starbucks after having been in Africa. He was amazed when a female customer came and yelled at him because the amount of foam on her latte was not up to standard. He said to himself:

Are you kidding me? You are upset about the amount of foam on your coffee? Do you know where I’ve been and what I’ve seen? And this is a big deal?

We talked of how everything is really relative after all. To one person, foam is a crisis while to another, death in the family is a regular occurance. As we talked, it was apparent that everybody has challenges within their realm of experience. It is not fair to judge any challenge based on the yardstick of others and we must withhold judgement because someone’s world crisis pales by comparison.

How will we look at issues at home upon our return? Will we be able to make the jump from Uganda to the U.S. without mental whiplash?

Even here in Uganda there is great disparity in the circumstances people are handed. I shared how I hate it when I get my socks wet when I go to the bathroom if the floor was not property dried after using the shower – while others use a hole in the ground (called a long-drop) for their potty and feel fortunate.

So, your challenges are big to you regardless of those of others. Look at these categories and consider your life by comparison. It’s all relative.

Transportation

Missionary trucks are usually the only vehicles in the parking lot at church. There may also be a boda (motorbike) and a few bicycles, but everyone else foots it.

This is an African moving van.

This is an African moving van

This family bikes to church.

This family bikes to church.

This family rides a boda 18 kilometers to church. Missionary trucks in the background.

This family rides a boda 18 kilometers to church. Missionary trucks in the background.

Housing

From sleeping under the veranda on the streets to palatial living. Life is certainly neither fair nor equal.

The upper crust in Kampala have it all.

The upper crust in Kampala have it all.

Gulu is mostly mud huts like this.

There are many mud huts in Gulu and the surrounding villages.

Clustered apartments make up the rest of Gulu housing.

Clustered apartments are about 12′ x 10′ in size, for the whole family.

Our flat is one of the nicer homes in Gulu.

Our flat is one of the nicer homes in Gulu.

Food

An American style burger and fries at a Mzungu restaurant (Cafe Java).

An American style burger and fries at a Mzungu restaurant (Cafe Java).

Delicious chocolate cake served to the rich.

Delicious chocolate cake served to the rich.

The buffet at Protia Hotel, where the wealthy stay.

The buffet at Protea Hotel, where the wealthy stay.

More food served at Protia.

More food served at Protea.

A nice traditional meal of beans, peas, chipate and mendoza.

A nice traditional meal of beans, peas, chipati and mendoza.

Preparing posho and beans for the orphans. This is the cheapest food on earth.

Preparing posho and beans for the orphans. This is the cheapest food on earth.

A traditional meal of rice, beans and millet bread.

A traditional meal of rice, beans and millet bread.

Work

This is a roadside shop where food and drink is on sale.

This is a roadside shop where food and drink is on sale.

Sewing is done with a treadle sewing machine.

Sewing is done with a treadle sewing machine. This is not an antique. It us used daily.

An African backhoe.

An African backhoe.

Manual grinding stone to sharpen tools and knives.

Manual grinding stone to sharpen tools and knives.

Sanitation

Some sanitation is lacking.

Some sanitation is lacking.

This is a long-drop which is outside. You squat to pot.

This is a long-drop which is outside. Our guards use it daily. You squat to pot.

Play

Everyone here loves football (soccer). The poor make their own balls to play with.

Everyone here loves football (soccer). The poor make their own balls to play with.

Handball is a very intense and fun sport. Wish it was in the U.S.

Handball is a very intense and fun sport. Wish it was in the U.S.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the update! This issue of relativity is so hard to make sense of and yet we all experience our trials in a real way regardless of how small they are compared to the context of other people’s trials. Makes me even more glad that God is the only true judge!

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  2. Once again you have reminded me of experiences from my own past. It is quite likely you will experience cultural whiplash when you return home. You are building memories that you and RaNae will cherish all your lives. But most likely you will begin to notice that those you would really like to share your experiences with, aren’t all that interested in spending time listening to the stories or seeing slides or video.

    The mother of a student I took to Romania one summer told me this story about her daughter, who was a strong LDS girl, raised in a strong LDS home and she always minded her mother. But when the daughter returned after 8 weeks working in an orphanage and living in a communist style bloc apartment next to two young men who came daily to collect water in 2 liter bottles because they could not pay their water or electric bills and their utilities had been cut off, she had a different outlook on things when she returned home.

    The mother said she had instructed Jean Marie to turn on the dishwasher. After a few hours the mother could see that Jean Marie had not complied so again she said, “Jean Marie, please turn on the dishwasher.” A while later the mother saw again that the dishwasher had not been started. Being very miffed at being ignored by her daughter the mom demanded, “Jean Marie, I said ‘Turn on the Dishwasher.'” To which Jean Marie disgustedly barked back at her mom, “Mother! In Romania there are people who save their bathwater to flush the toilet! I’m NOT turning on the dishwasher until it is full!” Your life will be touched in a similar way forever when you return home.

    In an earlier post I told about a family in Mexico that our family was invited to have dinner with a very poor family and the family didn’t eat and the chickens and ducks wandered through the house as we ate a simple meal. There is a post script to that story I will tell you now. When we returned from Mexico my son told that story to his best friends at school. They were shocked at what they heard and said “Nobody lives that way!” They were angry with him and as my son was leaving school that day his pals jumped him outside the school and beat him up for lying to them.

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